01 October, 2015


The village we stayed in whilst holidaying in France at the end of August was so beautiful and typically French that I couldn't resist swapping the 90mm macro lens for a wide-angle lens.

Back alleys

A dried up river gorge

Mountain spring

A late night thunderstorm

The macro lens seems to be almost permanently attached to my camera these days, so it was nice to mix it up a bit and attempt some landscape photos. I don't think I've taken a photo of a bird since last winter.

26 September, 2015

Phyllonorcyter comparella

This little beauty emerged from a leaf-mine collected on Poplar the other day - Phyllonorycter comparella.

One of many micros previously considered to be extremely rare and localised in its distribution, the recent surge in interest in micro moth recording has shown this species to be quite common across the UK. The adults of the species will continue to emerge from their distinctive mines over the next couple of weeks, ready to overwinter!

24 September, 2015

You had to be there

Half six in the morning. No one was around. No noise. The sun was just beginning to rise above the trees, cutting through a chilly layer of fog and spilling little shards of light through the canopy.

One of those 'you had to be there' moments at Nower Wood recently. 

The data collection stage of my dissertation is now over, and I handed in my set of keys to the reserve the other day. It's been wonderful having what can only be described as VIP access to Nower Wood - a normally private nature reserve used for educational purposes.

A big thanks must go out to the wardening team for letting me run traps on site, and to all the fantastic people who offered to keep me company through rain, wind and the pitch black.

15 September, 2015

French moths

The other week we took a family holiday to a small village just outside of Narbonne in south-west France. The vast majority of our holidays as a family have been spent in Wales and Cornwall, often during the rainiest weeks of the year, so I was itching to check out the local insect life on the edge of the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, what with airport security not being too keen on passengers taking large quantities of electrics and high-power batteries with them onto planes, I couldn't take a moth trap with me, and had to make do with an outside porch light for the duration of the trip. However, even without 'specialist' equipment, every night the side of the house attracted a carpet of beautiful and unusual moths. I was in heaven...

Ecleora solieraria

Odice jucunda - the 'Delightful Marbled'

Xerocnephasia rigana

Zebeeba falsalis

Pale-shouldered Cloud

Palpita vitrealis

Porter's Rustic

The Passenger

Yellow Belle

Hoyosia codeti

Hydriris ornatalis

Scarce Bordered Straw

Stemmatophora brunnealis


Pyrausta sanguinalis

09 September, 2015


Eight years is a long time to wait to meet another wildlife enthusiast on your local patch. My beloved Stokes Field - a local nature reserve just a minute's walk from my front door - is so tiny, so humble in comparison to almost every other patch of green space in Surrey that I'd just come to the conclusion that no one other than me was recording wildlife there. 

Walking around a patch knowing that you are most likely the only person there actively looking for wildlife can be surprisingly lonely, with no one to share bird stories on summer evenings and no one to skip and prance around fields in search of moths with. I have very specific needs. 

There I was walking through one of the many footpaths that criss-cross the reserve the other day, like I have done for the past eight years, when suddenly my long lost soul mate an old man passes me, fully kitted out with binoculars and camera. I was flabbergasted. Someone else. On MY reserve. Looking for wildlife. A thousand questions crossed my mind - what? who? how? 

I tried to keep a cool head, and quickly remembered how to greet a birder. 

"Alright" I uttered casually, trying to make it sound like it wasn't the big deal it was. "Any birds about?".
"Well, actually I'm looking for butterflies" he replied. 
SCORE - he's into lepidoptera. I can have a long butterfly related conversation with him, I thought to myself.
"Oh, any butterflies about?"
"Erm, there's a Brown Hairstreak around the blackthorn bushes over on the west boundary" he muttered.
"Oh, nice. I've never seen one here before. Good find." I replied, trying and failing to keep the grin on my face. 

He walked away. I walked away too, then stopped and tried to process what he'd said. He'd just seen a Brown Hairstreak. I was no longer flabbergasted at the fact that I'd just seen someone wearing binoculars for the first time on the patch, but at the fact that they'd seen an extremely elusive butterflies I've only previously dreamt of finding amongst the reserve's many blackthorn bushes. I hurried over to the area he'd mentioned, stared at the blackthorn for a couple of hours before finally...

Brown Hairstreak

There it was. A little gem high up in a blackthorn bush but sticking out like a sore thumb - one of the most beautiful butterflies I've ever seen, made all the more special because it was on the patch. The ability for such a small, under-managed site to harbour such quality wildlife never ceases to amaze me, and just goes to show how important our urban green spaces are for promoting biodiversity.

Big thanks must go out to the binocular-camera guy who pointed me in the right direction for the butterfly, without whose help I would almost certainly have walked right past it. No doubt he was probably just as surprised to see me on his patch as I was to see him on mine!

05 September, 2015

Eerie and atmospheric

Weather in the Hebrides this summer followed a fairly blunt, repetitive pattern of sun, rain, sun, rain, sun, rain, rain.

In the short periods between sun and rain, there was quite a lot of mist. On one occasion that it rolled in off the sea, I happened to be exploring a long abandoned croft near the small village of Bunessan. It gave a whole new meaning to the word 'eerie'...

25 August, 2015

Esher Common

It's amazing how long a day feels when you cut out the lie-in, which is exactly what I've had to do since starting a dissertation based around moth-trapping. 05:00 is never going to be a nice time to be interrupted mid-dream (no matter how soothing the alarm sounds when you set it the night before) but it does mean that after driving to each reserve and emptying the traps I feel awake and ready to the start the day; and all before 7am. This is a level of productiveness/organisation that I rarely feel during the summer holidays, and especially not before midday. Hell, I've even been remembering to take those 'one-a-day' vitamin supplement tablets things that you buy at the start of the year, swear by for a week or so and then completely forget about.

After packing up the traps in Nower Wood last Friday during one such productive 'phase', I decided to pop in to one of my nearest and dearest local patches - Esher Common - for an early morning stroll in the sun.

It's no secret that the boggy areas around Black Pond rank amongst the top spots in the UK for watching dragonflies, and it didn't take long for this to show through. A bulky pair of Brown Hawkers were patrolling the pools whilst lower down nearer the water's surface, smaller species like Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Emerald Damselfly and Small Red Damselfly were holding onto tiny territories of their own - the latter species being particularly confiding. Around the outskirts of the pond, the scarce moth Crambus hamella could be disturbed from heather, whilst Woodland Grasshoppers were absolutely everywhere. A Hummingbird Hawk-moth stopped to rest briefly along the main path heading back to the car park, rounding off a fantastic late summer session on the patch!

Small Red Damselfly

Small Red Damselfly

Black Darter
Grasshoppers were

Woodland Grasshopper

Crambus hamella

Hummingbird Hawk-moth

20 August, 2015

What have I got myself into?


I started my dissertation field work back on Monday (a.k.a the fun bit). If all goes to plan (it probably won't!) I'm going to attempt to compare the differences in abundance and diversity of moth populations between coppiced and non-coppiced woodland, which means I get to spent the next couple of weeks running moth traps in three top quality nature reserves run by Surrey Wildlife Trust in the North Downs.

Unfortunately, it also means that at some point before the end of May 2016 I'll need to write thousands and thousands of words on a subject which although fascinating to me, isn't exactly teeming with previous literature ready to back up any kind of trend or correlation I try and squeeze out of the data. It'll be hard and long-winded, but I'm too busy marvelling over some of the fantastic moths which have turned up (such as the nationally scarce Mocha & Square-spotted Clay pictured) in the first couple of sessions to worry about the computer work and statistics that are inevitably going to come later.

Square-spotted Clay

19 August, 2015

A bike ride to Bunessan

Mull is an island of indescribable beauty and contrast. It didn't take more than a bike ride to the nearby village of Bunessan for me to realise this,  a couple of hours after I first arrived at the croft...